STM expansion moving forward; chair in Catholic studies funded

With separate announcements totalling $2 million in gifts just days apart and a ground breaking ceremony for its building expansion, St. Thomas More College (STM) has taken significant steps in its Creating More campaign.

The campaign was announced last fall to raise $6 million for the construction project and to create a chair in Catholic Studies. On Oct. 15, the college announced $500,000 each from two donors – David and Karen Host of Warman, and Allan Markin of Calgary – just prior to officially starting a major three-storey expansion of STM. On Oct. 9, the college said it received $1 million from local philanthropists Leslie and Irene Dubé for the chair, the first in Saskatchewan and only the second in the history of western Canada.

Commenting at the ground-breaking ceremony on the college receiving $2 million in donations in less than a week, President Terry Downey said, "by any objective standard, that's historic."

Although several months behind schedule, the construction of the addition that will include classrooms, study space, offices and research space linked to the east wing of the existing building on College Drive is still expected to be complete by Aug. 31 next year, said Derrin Raffey, STM's chief financial officer and director of administration. "It's a really aggressive schedule," he said, "but the contractor is confident they can do it."

The complexity of the project, which includes a large atrium, resulted in delays in completing architectural and mechanical drawings and specs, Raffey said. Construction was to have started in June. Seven firms were invited to bid on the project with Quorex Construction ultimately awarded the job. Raffey added the winning bid was "well within our $8-million budget."

The addition is designed to address a space shortage for STM students. Currently, students can take only about 40-50 per cent of their classes in the building; other classes are held in buildings across campus. With the addition, that percentage will rise to about 75. Raffey said the addition's two 80-100-seat classrooms will also help the university address its shortage of space.

Due to the construction, a bus stop on College Drive in front of the STM chapel will be moved west, he said, and the sidewalk along the length of the site will be closed. A grassy lot west of the chapel will be used as the site for materials and construction buildings. As the project progresses, Raffey said there may be occasional traffic restrictions on College Drive but these will be temporary.

An STM media release about the Leslie and Irene Dubé Chair for Catholic Studies said the position will advance Catholic knowledge and education through both teaching and research, will promote ecumenical dialogue "and advance awareness of the great faith traditions."

"STM is near and dear to our hearts," said Irene Dubé in the release. "We are strong believers in the importance of a college that encourages students to explore both faith and reason, and the chair in Catholic studies will be a vital contributor to this environment."

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